Food

Apple Pie

Last week I had a request for apple pie, so here it is! This is a recipe my mom and I have used for many years, and people always love it.

I didn’t need a whole apple pie sitting around the house, so I halved my recipe and made a small one in a tiny pie pan. I still had leftover apple slices, which I put into a ramekin and baked with some oats on top. 😊 I ate the baked apples for dinner tonight (yum!) and am saving the pie for tomorrow.

I started by preparing the apples and preheating the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. I measured out sugar, flour, and cinnamon in a bowl and then stirred my apple slices until they were completely coated. Then I placed them to the side and worked on the pie crust. (See my note below if you need a pie crust recipe.)

The apple mixture was poured into the unbaked pie crust, and then I dotted it with butter. I cut the second pie pastry into strips and then wove them on top of the pie to create a lattice. Last, I brushed a little milk on top, sprinkled on some sugar, and placed it in the oven to bake for 50 minutes. I hope you enjoy this recipe as much as we do!

Recipe for Apple Pie

Ingredients:
6 tart apples, pared, cored, and thinly sliced (I like to use Honeycrisp)
1 c sugar, plus additional for sprinkling
2 Tbsp flour
1 tsp ground cinnamon
2 unbaked pie crusts, one for the pan and one for the lattice top**
4 Tbsp butter, cut into cubes
Milk for brushing

Directions:
Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Combine sugar, flour, and cinnamon in a large bowl. Add the apple slices and mix well. Prepare your pie pan with one of the crusts and then add in the apple mixture. Dot with butter. Slice the second pie crust into strips and create a lattice topping. Brush a little bit of milk onto the top dough and then sprinkle sugar on top. Bake at 400 degrees for 50 minutes. (If it is getting dark too quickly, place a piece of foil on top of the pie.)

 

**[If you need a good pie crust recipe: combine 2 c flour, 1 tsp salt, and 2/3 c shortening. Cut shortening in with a pastry cutter, then add 6-7 Tbsp of cold water and knead with hands. Divide into 2 dough balls, flatten slightly in-between wax paper, and let it sit in the fridge for a little bit before using.]

 

 

Celebrate! · Food

Chocolate Peanut Butter Pie

Friday was my husband, Josh’s birthday! He loves all things peanut butter and chocolate, so I made him a chocolate peanut butter pie for his birthday dessert. The weekend was packed with other parties and cooking/prep work, so I simplified an Alton Brown recipe since I was short on time. This turned out really good; it tasted like a giant Reese’s peanut butter cup!

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I went with a store-bought chocolate crust this time (I had no idea they made these!). I try to avoid store-bought whenever possible because it always tastes better when homemade, but the crust was actually pretty good. It was easy to use and didn’t require a blind bake either.

For the peanut butter mixture, I used Jiffy creamy peanut butter. (Alton has you making your own peanut butter from scratch, which I’m sure is delicious, but time consuming. Another time!) I mixed peanut butter with unsalted butter in the food processor and then added in powdered sugar and vanilla bean paste. This mixture was poured into my pie crust and then baked at 350 for 10 minutes.

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Once the pie was finished cooking, I heated heavy whipping cream in the microwave very briefly (30 seconds) and then poured chocolate chunks in to melt. After it sat for two minutes, it was melted enough that I was able to whisk the mixture into a smooth ganache topping. I poured the chocolate mixture evenly over the peanut butter layer and placed it in the fridge overnight. [Note: it only needs to sit for an hour and a half in the fridge before eating. The longer it sits in the fridge, the more prone to cracking. Mine had a big crack the next day, but we were enjoying it ourselves, so appearance didn’t matter. If I were taking it somewhere, I would try to make it the day of!]

Recipe for Chocolate Peanut Butter Pie
Adapted from the kitchen of Alton Brown

Ingredients:
1 9-inch chocolate pie crust
4 Tbsp unsalted, sweet butter
1 ½ c creamy peanut butter
3 oz powdered sugar (I measured mine out by Tbsp with a food scale)
1 tsp vanilla extract (or vanilla bean paste)
¼ c heavy whipping cream
2 oz German sweet chocolate baking bar, cut into smaller pieces

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Place the peanut butter and butter in a food processor. Pulse for 1 minute, then add the powdered sugar and vanilla and process for another 2 minutes. Once smooth, pour the mixture into a chocolate pie crust and bake for 10 minutes. Remove and let cool, while you prepare the topping.

Put the heavy whipping cream in a microwave-safe bowl and microwave on high for 30 seconds. Add the chocolate and let sit for 2 minutes. Gently whisk the chocolate with the cream for 2 to 3 minutes, until smooth. Spread the mixture over the pie and place in refrigerator for 1 ½ hours before serving. Enjoy!

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Celebrate! · Food

Cinco de Mayo!

Happy Cinco de Mayo! We just got back from a party, where we brought tapas and dessert! 😊 Everything was a hit, and some of these I will definitely make again soon! Here’s what we brought:

Mexican Chocolate Pecan Pie

My parents make this one frequently, and it’s always a crowd pleaser. This is Marcela Valladolid’s recipe and can be found here.

I used 12 whole graham crackers in the crust, along with the melted butter and 2 tablespoons of brown sugar. (The other ½ cup of brown sugar will go in the filling.) If you can’t find Mexican chocolate, you can use 70% dark chocolate (I used Lindt) with ½ tsp of ground cinnamon! The pie only cooks for 10 minutes in the oven, but it will continue to set up on the counter.

I actually took two pies today because I grabbed the wrong chocolate bar out of the pantry and didn’t realize it until after it was cooked! My first pie used semi-sweet chocolate, while the second followed the recipe. Both tasted great, but I still prefer the darker chocolate personally.

Horchata

I found this recipe from tastes better from scratch, and it’s really easy! You just need to start it early since there are a couple of stages. It has to set on the counter for at least 8 hours after the first few steps, so make it the day before you want to serve it!

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I made vinyl labels on my Cricut and found these colorful plastic cups at Albertson’s for 25 cents each! Everyone enjoyed drinking their horchata over ice in their personalized cups.

Churro Muffins

After making two chocolate pecan pies, I wasn’t planning on making another dessert…but I had pinned this a while back and had all the ingredients already on hand. It was really quick to whip up and I’m glad I made them. They went fast! It’s not quite as crunchy as a churro, but the flavor is spot on.

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Mexican Street Corn Salad Cups

These turned out so pretty! I found this recipe from take two tapas, but I did alter it a little bit.

First, I boiled corn on the cob instead of using frozen corn. Any time I make corn, I add honey to the water, which makes it a little sweeter! (8 ears of corn was about 5 cups.) After cooking them, I cut the kernels off. My dad taught me this cool trick; you can take a bundt pan and place the corn in the middle hole. When you slice the kernels off, they fall right into the pan!

Other alterations I made:
1 whole red bell pepper, diced (instead of ½)
½ jalapeno, diced finely (instead of 1 whole)
6 Tbsp Mexican crema (instead of 3 Tbsp sour cream)
1 c. Cotija cheese, grated, plus additional for topping! (instead of ¾ c)
¼ tsp chili powder (It mentioned it in the recipe description, but it wasn’t listed in the ingredients.)
Salt and pepper, to taste

The corn mixture tasted great both in the wonton cups and by itself. Some of our family even put it on their street tacos, over steak!

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Shrimp Guacamole Bites

I wasn’t able to get a picture of the shrimp bites because they went too fast! This recipe is by well plated by Erin. I used frozen cooked shrimp since it was on hand. I tossed them in olive oil and the spices and baked them for 4 minutes at 400 degrees Fahrenheit. I prepared fresh guacamole with pomegranate seeds (it gives them a sweet crunch!) and topped round Tostito chips with the guacamole, shrimp, and grated Cotija cheese.

Manchego Cheese and Prosciutto

The last appetizer was pieces of manchego cheese wrapped in prosciutto slices. My parents went to Spain recently, and this was something they would eat over there, alongside marcona almonds. Yum!

 

 

Food

Chocolate Mint Cheesecake

Today is one of my best friend’s birthdays, and I wanted to surprise her with a mini cheesecake. She loves mint Oreos, so I thought a chocolate mint cheesecake would be appropriate. My mom has a cookbook at home called Mother Wonderful’s Cheesecakes, and they really are wonderful. I have several that vie for favorite, but I’ve certainly made this one a lot.

Just because you make something often doesn’t mean you don’t have off days. Tuesday night was such. My mini cheesecakes tasted good but were not up to standard in the looks department! I put a cookie sheet underneath the springform pans instead of a pan, and butter leaked all over the oven, causing quite a bit of smoke and a big mess. I couldn’t put them back in the smoking oven for fear of the smoke detector going off, so I had to finish cooking them in the toaster oven! Meanwhile, I forgot to tint the topping and tried swirling it in after it was already applied… yuck!

Fortunately, I had filling leftover in the fridge and the ingredients to make more crust and topping. So today I cleaned the oven and started over! And I’m happy to say that this mini cheesecake turned out perfect!

I began by preparing my pan. If you are making a cheesecake to take somewhere, you don’t want to use the bottom that comes with the springform pan, or you might not get it back! Trace the bottom on a piece of cardboard, cut out the circle, and then wrap it in foil. Place parchment paper over your new bottom and then pop it into the springform pan. Then preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. (Pull out your cream cheese to begin softening as well.)

Next, I made the crust. I pulsed Oreos in a food processor (about 2/3 of the package) until it was finely ground. Then I added the sugar and melted butter. Once it was combined, I took a spoon and pressed it into the springform pan. (Note: If you are doing mini cheesecakes, you’re going to have quite a bit of crust – spread it out between several pans. Otherwise, it’s enough to coat an entire 10-inch springform.)

Then it was time to make the filling. I put the cream cheese and sugar in my KitchenAid and mixed it well. I melted the sweet chocolate in the microwave and cut up Andes mints. Then I added both of these ingredients, along with the pinch of salt and mint extract, to the mixer. I scraped the bowl down several times to make sure the ingredients were mixed thoroughly, turned the speed down to the lowest setting, and added the eggs, one at a time.

I poured the filling into the crust. Make sure you leave room for topping! It will also rise a little bit. Now this is crucial: put a pan underneath your springform pan!! (Do as I say, not as I do.) Then bake for 40 minutes! (If you’re doing a mini cheesecake (4-inch springform), it will only take 30-32 minutes.)

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Once the crust and filling were cooked, I let it sit for 10 minutes and prepared the sour cream topping. I measured out and mixed sour cream, sugar, and mint extract and added a drop of green food coloring to the mixture. Then I spread it on top of the cheesecake with a rubber spatula. This then went back into the oven for 10 more minutes. After this, it’s done! It needs to go straight from the oven to the refrigerator, to prevent cracks from forming. It also tastes best if you can make the cheesecake the night before so it can sit overnight in the fridge. I thought this mini cheesecake turned out pretty cute, and I hope my friend and her husband enjoy it!

Happy Birthday, Taylor!

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Recipe for Chocolate Mint Cheesecake
From the Kitchen of Mother Wonderful 😊

Crust:
Ingredients:
¼ lb salted butter (one stick), melted
2 c finely ground crumbs from Nabisco Famous Wafers OR Oreos
¼ c sugar

Directions:
Pulse chocolate wafers or Oreos in a food processor until finely ground. Pour melted butter and sugar into food processor and combine until well blended. Press mixture over bottom and up sides of an ungreased 10-inch springform pan.

Filling:
Ingredients:
4 8-oz packages of cream cheese, softened
1 ¼ c sugar
1 tsp mint extract
Pinch of salt
3 ½ oz Baker’s German sweet chocolate, melted
2 oz Andes mints, chopped finely
4 large eggs

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a mixer, combine cream cheese and sugar, and beat for 2 minutes, until soft. Add the mint extract, salt, melted chocolate, and chocolate mint bits and blend thoroughly. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing on the lowest speed. Mix until each egg has been incorporated into the batter. Pour filling into crust and bake for 40 minutes. (If ingredients are not at room temperature, add five minutes to the baking time.) Remove from oven and let stand for 10 minutes while you prepare the topping.

Topping:
Ingredients:
2 c sour cream
¼ c sugar
1 tsp mint extract

Directions:
Combine sour cream, sugar, and mint extract in a small bowl. Spread evenly over top of baked filling and return to 350-degree oven for 10 minutes. Remove from oven and immediately place in the refrigerator to cool.

It tastes best if it can sit overnight to cool completely and finish setting up! Enjoy!

Food

Bacon and Veggie Frittata

Today is my brother’s birthday – Happy Birthday, John! Here’s a recipe for you!

I’m doing a new workout program with one of my best friends, and we’re following a stricter nutrition plan along with it. It requires a lot more protein and vegetables and less carbs. Last year I posted a quiche recipe. This week I modified it to cut out the carbs. A frittata is similar to a quiche, just without the crust! This turned out really yummy, and I’ve eaten it for the last five mornings! You can switch out the meat to be crumbled sausage or diced ham. I used bacon since I had some leftover in the freezer. You can also add mushrooms and tomatoes (just leave the tomatoes until the end and dot them on top of the mixture before placing in the oven).

I began by preheating the oven to 350 and greasing a 9×9 inch pan. Then I diced up some bell pepper and onion and sautéed them over medium heat. While they were cooking, I chopped up the spinach and bacon.

Next, I carefully cracked my eggs in a large bowl and measured out the spices. Then I combined all the other ingredients with the eggs – the sautéed vegetables, spinach, bacon, spices, and almond milk. (You can use regular milk if you prefer. I just wanted mine to be dairy-free.)

I whisked everything together until it was mixed well. Then I poured it into the prepared pan and baked it for 25 minutes. I cooked it on Sunday night, cut it into pieces, and placed it in the fridge. Every morning I pull out a piece and microwave it for a minute until it’s heated through. Yum! Hope you enjoy this healthy breakfast!

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Recipe for Bacon and Veggie Frittata

Ingredients:
10 eggs
½ c. bell pepper, diced
½ small yellow onion, diced
3 pieces of cooked bacon, chopped
1 large handful of spinach, washed and chopped
½ tsp. salt
½ tsp. paprika
½ tsp. thyme
¼ tsp. chipotle chile pepper
1/8 tsp. black pepper
1/3 c. unsweetened almond milk
(Optional: cherry tomatoes, cut in half)

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and prepare your pan. Spray a 9×9 inch pan with cooking spray.

In a small skillet, sauté the bell pepper and onion.

Crack eggs into a large bowl. Add spices, milk, sautéed vegetables, bacon, and spinach. Whisk well. Pour into prepared pan. (Top with tomatoes if desired!)

Bake for 25 minutes and serve!

(Leftovers refrigerate well and can be heated up later.)

Food

Cauliflower Pizza Crust

Happy Valentine’s Day! In our house, we celebrated with homemade pizza and heart sugar cookies.

I LOVE pizza. Some may remember me posting my pizza dough recipe a while back. I still like to make this dough for family and friends. Unfortunately, I have some food allergies and need to avoid bready foods as much as possible, which means none of that delicious dough for me. Now when I want pizza, I like to make a cauliflower crust. It still allows me my pepperoni and cheese fix and is a healthier option. 😊 This comes together very quickly and uses minimal ingredients (most of which you probably will already have on hand)!

I began by preheating the oven to 400 and steaming the cauliflower in the microwave. I placed the bag (still sealed) in the microwave and set it for 5 minutes on high. Then I lined a cookie sheet with parchment paper and sprayed it with cooking spray.

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(This is the type of cauliflower I like to use.)

While the cauliflower cooked, I cracked two eggs into a bowl and then measured and added in the two cheeses and spices. I whisked these ingredients together and then added in the cooked cauliflower. Once it was mixed well, I poured it onto the prepared cookie sheet and spread it out so that it was even.

I cooked the crust for 20 minutes and then added on my toppings. Then it went back into the oven for another 10 minutes so that my toppings were heated through and the cheese was melted. Delicious!

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Recipe for Cauliflower Pizza Crust
(Modified from the Food Network!)

Ingredients:
1 bag of riced cauliflower
2 eggs
½ c shredded mozzarella
¼ c grated Parmesan
½ tsp Italian seasoning
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp garlic powder

Directions:
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Place parchment paper on a cookie sheet and grease with cooking spray.

Steam the riced cauliflower according to the directions on the bag. (Leave it in the bag and cook on high for 5 minutes. Let it sit for 1 minute before mixing it with the rest of the ingredients.)

While the cauliflower is cooking, measure out the rest of the ingredients in a bowl and beat together. Add in the cauliflower and mix well. Pour onto the prepared parchment paper and spread out evenly.

Cook for 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and add sauce and pizza toppings. Place back in the oven for 10 minutes, until cheese is melted. Enjoy!

 

Food

Mom’s Chicken Salad

It’s only February, but it’s been in the 80’s here in Arizona! While I am enjoying the warmth and sunshine, it means no more heavy, warm foods! (Or at least less of them.) I made up a batch of my mom’s chicken salad last week and we enjoyed it for lunch almost every day. This recipe uses apples and dried cranberries which make it sweet, and a combination of light sour cream and mayo to make it creamy. Serve it on crackers, bread, or apple slices to make it into a yummy meal or snack!

This recipe is extremely easy and mostly uses the ½ cup and ½ tsp, which means little clean-up! I began by preparing the chicken. Any time I buy a rotisserie chicken, I try to skin it and remove it from the bone while it’s still warm. That way I just have to pull it from the fridge and cut it up when I’m ready to use it.

I cut and measured the celery, green onion, and apple and then measured out the rest of the ingredients. Everything was tossed into a bowl, and then I stirred it well. I placed the lid on my bowl and put it in the refrigerator to chill. Once it was cool, we ate it on club crackers! However, my husband also loves it as a sandwich on a fresh croissant. I hope you enjoy it as much as we do.

Recipe for Mom’s Chicken Salad

Ingredients:
1 rotisserie chicken (cooked, skin removed, and meat diced)
½ c celery, chopped
¼ c green onion, thinly sliced
½ c light sour cream
½ c light mayo
½ tsp onion powder
½ tsp garlic powder
½ c dried cranberries (Craisins)
½ c apple, chopped (peeled)
Salt and pepper (season to taste)

Directions:
Skin a rotisserie chicken and remove from bones. Cut the chicken into bite-sized pieces. Combine with remaining ingredients and mix well. Refrigerate in a sealed container. Enjoy!

Food

Chicken Poppyseed Casserole

Last night I made chicken poppyseed casserole for dinner, and we have been enjoying the leftovers today. My best friend introduced me to this recipe in college, and nearly a decade later, it’s still one of my go-to dinners. The last couple of times I’ve made it, I have tweaked a few things to make it easier and creamier! This is delicious, filling, comfort food, and it is always a hit with the family.

I begin by preparing my chicken. I used to use several chicken breasts, but sometimes they would end up dry and a little disappointing. I now use a rotisserie chicken from the grocery store, and I try to cut it up while it’s still warm. This helps the skin come off easier too. I discard the skin and then pull or cut off all the meat, both light and dark pieces. All of it goes into a mixing bowl, and the chicken carcass goes into the trash.

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To shred the chicken, the easiest and quickest method I have found is with my KitchenAid. I use a paddle attachment and put it on the “stir” setting for a couple of minutes. This shreds it much finer than forks, but if you don’t have a mixer, forks will work too.

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Once the chicken is shredded, I dump the cream of chicken soup and sour cream in and stir it by hand. I usually use the light sour cream and find that it does not affect the flavor; it is still creamy and rich!

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I spray a 9×9 pan with cooking spray and then spread the chicken mixture in the pan until it is even. Then I sprinkle crushed Ritz crackers all over the top and cover them with a light layer of melted butter. (I use almost a whole sleeve of crackers. I may leave 4 or 5 crackers behind.) Last, the poppyseeds get sprinkled on top (as many or as little as you want).

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The casserole goes in to the oven at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for about 30 minutes. Meanwhile, I like to get water boiling on the stove and cook egg noodles to go with the casserole. Yum! Just spoon the casserole over your noodles, stir it up, and it’s ready to eat!

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Recipe for Chicken Poppyseed Casserole

Ingredients:
1 small rotisserie chicken
1 can cream of chicken soup (I use Campbell’s)
1 c sour cream (= 8 oz container)
1 sleeve Ritz crackers, crushed
4 Tbsp butter, melted
Poppyseeds

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Lightly spray a 9×9 pan with cooking spray.

Pull skin off of the rotisserie chicken and discard. Pull meat off and shred, either with a KitchenAid mixer or with forks. In the same bowl, dump the soup and sour cream, and mix well.

Using a spatula, spread the chicken mixture into the prepared pan. Evenly sprinkle the crushed crackers on top. Carefully pour the melted butter over the crackers, and sprinkle with poppyseeds.

Bake for 30 minutes, until crackers are golden, and mixture is heated through.

Serve over egg noodles or rice!

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Celebrate! · Food

‘Tis the season…

…for baking!

My kitchen is a disaster, and I spent forever washing dishes, but these Christmas treats are worth it! Today I made chocolate covered cherries, peppermint bark, and chocolate pretzels, and then I tried out a new sugar cookie recipe. I hope you enjoy these treats!

Recipe for Chocolate Covered Cherries

Ingredients:
16 oz powdered sugar
5 Tbsp soft butter
2 Tbsp half and half cream <–I used whole milk today but used a little less.
½ tsp vanilla
2 10-oz jars maraschino cherries, well drained
8 oz Guittard melting chocolate or other melting milk chocolate

Directions:
Drain cherries and lay on a paper towel to dry.

Knead the powdered sugar, butter, cream, and vanilla. Flatten a spoonful of dough in the palm of your hand and roll dough around a cherry. Place on a parchment lined sheet and repeat with the rest of the cherries. Refrigerate until firm, about 1 hour.

Melt the chocolate in a double boiler. Using a toothpick, dip each cherry and return to the sheet. Let them cool and continue to harden in the refrigerator. Store in a cool, dry place! Enjoy!

Peppermint Bark

Back home there is a cake decorating shop that I absolutely love. For quite a while my mom would bring me melting chocolate (milk, dark, and white!) when she visited, and my dad would joke, “They don’t have chocolate in Arizona!”. I recently found a shop that carries good chocolate, so my mom won’t be having to lug chocolate around in her suitcase anymore. However, the same shop back in Texas has the best peppermint pieces for bark. I haven’t found it here, but you could certainly crush candy canes and create a similar effect.

The peppermint bark uses a 2:1 ratio of white chocolate to peppermint pieces. I usually melt 1 lb of white chocolate in a double boiler and then stir in ½ lb of peppermint pieces. Once fully incorporated, spread it out on a wax paper covered baking sheet, and then refrigerate. I spread the chocolate fairly thin; it cools quicker and then breaks into pieces easier. I store my bark in a container in the refrigerator, so it lasts longer!

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Chocolate Pretzels

These are extremely easy and always a hit! All you need is a bag of square pretzels, Hershey hugs, and m&ms. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and preheat the oven to 250 degrees Fahrenheit. Unwrap as many hugs as you want and then place each one on a pretzel. Bake for 3 minutes, just enough to slightly melt the hugs. Take out of the oven and immediately place an m&m on each hug. Transfer the baking sheet to the refrigerator and let it continue to cool and harden. (Funny story: The grocery store was out of Christmas m&ms, so I had to sift through a regular bag and pick out the red and green ones! The things we do…ha!)

Christmas Cookies

I found this cookie recipe through Williams Sonoma – it’s a recipe courtesy of baker Patti Paige. These cookies are delicious and remind me of shortbread. I didn’t frost mine because they are great as is! The cooking time will vary. The recipe says 9-15 minutes, but mine were ready in 7-8. I think mine were thinner, thus the shorter baking time.

Ingredients:
2 ½ c + 2 Tbsp all-purpose flour
½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
12 Tbsp unsalted butter, at room temp (I was 1 Tbsp short, so I replaced 1 with shortening)
1 c + 2 Tbsp sugar
1 egg
1 ½ tsp vanilla extract <– I used clear

Directions:
In a small bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, and salt; set aside.

Using a mixer, combine the butter and sugar on medium speed. Add the egg and vanilla. Reduce speed to low and gradually add the flour mixture. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and mix it until a dough forms.

Divide the dough into 3 equal pieces. Tear off 6 sheets of parchment paper – place a dough ball on 3 of them, and then place a sheet on top of each ball. Roll each ball into a flat disc, about ¼ inch thick. Place in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Take one disc out of the fridge and loosen the parchment paper until it comes away from the dough. Set it back on top of the dough (loosely) and then flip over and repeat with the other piece of parchment paper. This will keep the cookies from sticking!

Cut out shapes and place on a lined baking sheet. Cook for about 9 minutes, or until edges are slightly browned, and then let cool briefly on the sheet before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

(These cookies don’t spread, so you can place cookies pretty close together when baking.)

Happy baking, friends!

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Celebrate! · Food

Macarons!

Tomorrow we’re doing a photoshoot for my little girl, complete with a cake smash! Despite her main birthday colors being pink, green, and gold, I decided to play with color and bring in a rainbow of sprinkles for her cake. I’m always drawn to cake pictures that have dimension, and I’ve seen several that include macarons on the top.

Fortunately for me, I took a macaron cooking class at Sur la table a couple of years ago and learned the techniques behind them. These delicate cookies take a little bit of practice, but they are fun to make, and I’m going to share some of my notes from class (that you don’t see when you look at a macaron recipe). Please note that weather can affect macarons. They are easier to make if it’s drier – I’m quite lucky living in the desert for this. If it’s been extremely rainy and humid, your macarons may not turn out.

I used the ingredients for a basic macaron from my Macaroons cookbook by Love Food. In my cooking class, we used the same ingredients, but we weighed everything. I thought it would be easier to list the ingredients in cups on here, rather than in ounces. Please note that the following recipe does not make very many macarons. You will want to double the recipe if you are taking them to a party. However, for practicing the technique, the smaller ingredients are perfect!

I began by measuring out almond flour and powdered sugar (confectioners’ sugar). I used Bob’s Red Mill finely ground almond meal/flour. Since it was very fine, I did not put it in the food processor. I placed it and the powdered sugar in my drum sieve and sifted it over parchment paper. Then I transferred the mixture to a bowl, used a fork to make sure it was mixed well, and set it aside.

Next, I separated the eggs, one at a time, and placed the egg whites in my KitchenAid mixer. I added a pinch of cream of tartar and then whipped them on a medium-low speed. You want it to get foamy (like beer foam) before adding the granulated sugar. Once the sugar is added, scrape down the sides of the bowl, add in a couple drops of food coloring, and then increase the speed to high. Let it whip until stiff peaks form and it gets glossy in appearance. To check if it’s done, you can stop the mixer, pull the whisk attachment out, and dip it in the whipped egg whites. Pull it straight up, and if there is a peak coming off the whisk (and it holds strong), then it’s ready. I really wish I had taken a picture of this step; I will try to get one and add it in later!

Now it’s time to add in the almond flour/powdered sugar mixture. You want to add in a third of it at a time. Don’t pour it all in at once! You’re going to fold it in, using a clock-wise motion. Go around the bowl once (“clean the bowl”), cut through the middle, and then around again. Keep doing this pattern until it’s all incorporated. Around – cut through – around; around – cut through – around…

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Then I transferred the mixture into a pastry bag with a plain round tip. My class recommended a #12 tip, but I used a #10. It’s just one size smaller. (If you double the recipe, don’t overfill the bag! You can always add in more.) Get out a baking sheet and some parchment paper. Sur la table also sells silicone mats that have circles printed on them for macarons! (I traced circles on the back of my parchment paper but then decided not to use them.) To keep the parchment paper in place, “glue” the corners down with some of the filling.

Hold the bag straight up and down on the parchment paper and gently squeeze to let the filling come out. Use one hand to squeeze the bag and the other hand near the tip, as a guide. Don’t try to pipe circles. Just keep it in one place and count to 6. 1-2-3-4-5-6-stop. Keep doing this, leaving a space of 2 fingers between each circle. If you have a little swoosh in the middle, you can gently smooth it out with your finger (and a tiny bit of water).

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I made one extra (on the bottom) to taste test later.

Once the circles were completed, I hit the bottom of the pan on my table to release any trapped air. Then I walked away and let them sit for 30 minutes.

During this time, I made a unicorn shirt for a friend… random request! 🙂

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After 30 minutes, I preheat the oven to 325 degrees and checked on the macarons. I let them sit another 10 and then they were ready to go in the oven. There should be a slight crust on them, and they should not stick to your finger when touched. They should almost seem hardened on the outside. I baked mine for 12 minutes, but I did check them after 10. Then I let them cool for a few minutes before transferring them to a cooling rack.

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Later in the day, I made my buttercream filling. I beat the butter and vanilla extract, and then added in powdered sugar. Once it was smooth, I folded in some dehydrated strawberry pieces.

To assemble the macarons, you can pipe the filling on the cookie or just use a knife. I went the simple route and spread it on with a knife and then sandwiched the pairs together. (Kind of twist them together instead of smooshing them.) I tried to get a little extra filling in mine so I could roll the sides in sprinkles. Once you learn how to make the cookie part of the macaron, you can do all kinds of fillings. One of my favorites is a lemon macaron with a white chocolate ganache! Stay tuned and I’ll make that one soon!

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Recipe for Macarons
(Ingredients from Macaroons by Love Food; Directions from Sur la table cooking school)

Ingredients (for the cookie):
¾ c ground almonds
1 c confectioners’ sugar
2 extra large egg whites
Pinch of cream of tartar (not in the book’s recipe; added in from my cooking class)
¼ c granulated sugar
Optional: gel food coloring

Ingredients (for buttercream filling):
4 Tbsp unsalted butter, softened
½ tsp vanilla extract
1 c confectioners’ sugar, sifted
Optional: 4 strawberries, finely chopped ( I used a few pieces of dehydrated strawberries instead, chopped fine.)

(^This is a pretty standard buttercream frosting, just minus the milk. You want it to be thick for filling the cookie, instead of thinned out.)

Directions (for the cookie):
In a food processor, blend about a third of the confectioners’ sugar with the almond flour into a fine powder. Transfer to a mixing bowl with the remaining confectioners’ sugar. Using a drum sieve, sift mixture onto a sheet of parchment paper. Set aside.

To make the meringue: Using a mixer (fitted with a whisk attachment), whip egg whites and cream of tartar on medium speed until foamy. Gradually add granulated sugar. Once sugar is incorporated and mixture is thick, scrape down sides of bowl (add food coloring if desired) and increase speed to high. Whip until stiff, firm, glossy peaks form.

To complete the macaronnage step: Add 1/3 of the sifted almond flour mixture to the meringue and fold using a large spatula. Fold in the rest of the flour in two more additions, then check for correct consistency. The batter should be firm, have a glossy shine, and drip slowly from the spatula.

Transfer batter to a pastry bag fitted with a ½ inch plain round tip. Pipe 1 1/3 inch rounds on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Rap the bottom of each sheet on your table to release trapped air. Let stand at room temperature for 30-40 minutes. Check for a slight crust to form on the macaron. The macarons should not stick to your finger when lightly touched.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Bake macarons until crisp and firm, about 10-12 minutes. (If they are still soft inside, lower oven to 300, cover with aluminum foil, and bake for a few more minutes. If the top looks crinkled, your oven might be too hot!) Allow macarons to cool on baking sheets for 2-3 minutes and transfer to a wire rack to cool completely before filling.

Directions (for the filling):
Beat the butter and vanilla extract until pale and fluffy. Gradually beat in the confectioners’ sugar until smooth and creamy. Fold in the strawberries if desired. Pair up macarons and use the filling to sandwich them together. (Spread onto the bottom of one and sandwich flat sides together.)